By Bob Katzen
Beacon Hill Roll Call records local senators' and representatives' votes on roll calls from the week of July 23-27.
* Credit reports (H 4806) -- House 152-0, Senate 38-0, approved and sent to Gov. Charlie Baker legislation that would prohibit consumer reporting agencies, like Equifax, Experian and TransUnion from charging fees for freezing and unfreezing a person's credit information. Under current law, companies can and have charged up to $5 per freeze or unfreeze.
A freeze makes the report inaccessible until the consumer unfreezes it. Since banks and other lenders require access to the borrower's credit report before giving a loan, this greatly reduces identity thieves from getting a loan or credit in another individual's name.
(A "Yes" vote is for the bill.)
Yes: Rep. James Arciero, Rep. Cory Atkins, Rep. Jennifer Benson, Rep. Kimberly Ferguson, Rep. Colleen Garry, Rep. Thomas Golden, Rep. Kenneth Gordon , Rep. Sheila Harrington, Rep. Stephan Hay, Rep. Natalie Higgins, Rep. Marc Lombardo, Rep. James Lyons, Rep. Rady Mom, Rep. David Nangle, Rep. Harold Naughton, Rep. Jonathan Zlotnik, Sen. Michael Barrett, Sen. James Eldridge, Sen. Cindy Friedman, Sen. Anne Gobi, Sen. Barbara L'Italien, Sen. Bruce Tarr, Sen. Dean Tran.
* Sexual-misconduct survey (H 4810) -- House 150-0, approved and sent to the Senate a bill requiring all colleges and universities in the Bay State to biennially conduct a sexual-misconduct climate survey of all students.
Sexual misconduct is defined in the bill as incidents of sexual violence, dating violence, domestic violence, gender-based violence, violence based on sexual orientation or gender identity, sexual harassment and stalking.
Yes: All approved.
* Sales-tax holiday (H 4732) -- Senate 31-6, approved an amendment allowing consumers to buy most products that cost under $2,500 on Saturday, Aug. 11 and Sunday, Aug. 12 without paying the state's 6.25 percent sales tax.
Supporters of the bill said the holiday, which has been in effect for many years, would boost retail sales and noted that consumers would save millions of dollars. Some opponents of the bill said the state cannot afford the up to $30 million estimated revenue loss and argued the holiday actually generates little additional revenue for stores because consumers typically buy the products even without the tax-free days.
(A "Yes" vote is for the tax-free holiday. A "No" vote is against it.)
Yes: Sen. Michael Barrett, Sen. Anne Gobi, Sen. Barbara L'Italien, Sen. Bruce Tarr, Sen. Dean Tran
No: Sen. James Eldridge, Sen. Cindy Friedman.
* Allow neighborhoods to band together and form a district (H 4546) -- Senate 27-10, approved a local option amendment allowing a city or town to authorize the creation of community benefit districts which would allow owners of contiguous property in a city or town to form a district and require property owners in that district to pay for additional services, improvements, events and other projects and activities within the district.
The districts would be operated by a nonprofit board.
Supporters say the required payment is an assessment fee. Opponents say it is a tax.
(A "Yes" vote is for the amendment. A "No" vote is against it.)
Yes: Sen. James Eldridge, Sen. Cindy Friedman, Sen. Anne Gobi, Sen. Barbara L'Italien.
No: Sen. Bruce Tarr, Sen. Dean Tran.
Did not vote: Sen. Michael Barrett.
* Adoption of animals used in research (S 2387) -- Senate 38-0, approved and sent to the House a proposal that would require that animals used in research labs be allowed to be put up for adoption through animal rescue organizations, rather than being automatically euthanized.
Yes: Sen. Michael Barrett, Sen. James Eldridge, Sen. Cindy Friedman, Sen. Anne Gobi, Sen. Barbara L'Italien, Sen. Bruce Tarr, Sen. Dean Tran.
* Breakfast after the bell (S 2626) -- Senate 37-0, approved and sent to the House a bill designed to boost participation rates in school breakfast programs in high-poverty schools. The measure would require that the breakfast be offered only after the school day begins, through a variety of ways including breakfast in the classroom, grab-and-go and second-chance breakfast.
Supporters said that in most schools breakfast is currently offered in the cafeteria before the bell and the participation rate is less than 40 percent of eligible students because of the stigma attached to it. Many students assume that everyone who arrives to school early for the breakfast is from a poor family. The participation rate rises to up to 90 percent of eligible students participating in the lunch program later in the day.
Yes: Sen. Michael Barrett, Sen. James Eldridge, Sen. Cindy Friedman, Sen. Anne Gobi, Sen. Barbara L'Italien, Sen. Bruce Tarr, Sen. Dean Tran
Also on Beacon Hill
* Baker signs budget (H 4800) -- Gov. Baker signed into law a $41.2 billion fiscal 2019 state budget -- a 3.2 percent hike over last year's budget. The governor vetoed $48.9 million in items that were part of the budget package.
Fiscal year 2018 ended on July 1 and the state has been without a permanent budget since then. It has been operating on temporary budgets and last week was the last state to approve its fiscal 2019 budget.
"Since taking office, our administration has worked to reduce an inherited budget deficit, build our reserves by over $1 billion and make targeted investments in education, the opioid epidemic and our cities and towns -- all without raising taxes," said Gov. Baker. "We are pleased to sign a balanced budget that manages taxpayer dollars in a fiscally responsible way, while providing a tax break for working families and support for critical services for every resident."
* Spilka sworn in as new senate president - Sen. Karen Spilka (D-Ashland) was sworn in as the new Senate president. Spilka took over the reins from Sen. Harriette Chandler (D-Worcester) who was elected in December to serve as the temporary Senate president after former President Stan Rosenberg relinquished the position following the scandal involving his husband Bryon Hefner. Rosenberg resigned from the Senate altogether in March after Hefner was indicted on felony charges in connection with sexual assault, criminal lewdness and distributing nude photos without consent.
"As we turn the page and look to the future, I pledge to uphold and maintain the integrity of the Senate -- for the public and for each and every senator, staff member, advocate and intern that passes through our doors," Spilka said in a speech following her election.
* Baker signs $2 hike in car rental tax to fund police training (H 4516) -- Gov. Baker signed into law a bill imposing a $2 tax on car rentals to fund municipal police training to the tune of $10 million annually.
* Firefighters and cancer (H 2525) - Gov. Baker signed into law legislation that allows firefighters, temporarily incapacitated from work due to certain forms of cancer, to leave with full pay while they deal with this serious illness. The measure requires that certain cancers sustained by firefighters be presumed a disabling condition sustained in the line of duty, unless it can be proven that the cancer originates from some other cause. Under current law, firefighters are not covered under the "Leave with Pay" statute and must use all their banked leave time to be treated for presumptive conditions.
* Baker signs repeal of archaic sex and abortion laws (S 2260) -- Gov. Baker signed into law a bill that would eliminate old state laws, some from the 1800s, restricting or banning abortion and contraception. The laws repealed include the ban on unmarried people accessing abortion and contraception; the ban on distributing information on how to procure contraception or abortion care; a law which punishes doctors, pharmacists and all healthcare providers for distributing contraception or providing abortion care; and a ban on adultery and fornication.
* Governor signs raise in age from 18 to 21 to purchase tobacco (H 4784) -- The governor signed into law a bill raising from 18 to 21 the age to legally purchase cigarettes and electronic cigarettes in the Bay State. Other provisions ban e-cigarettes and other vape devices from the workplace and prohibit pharmacies and healthcare facilities from selling any tobacco or vape products.
* Child care (H 2898) -- The House gave initial approval to a bill allowing a candidate for public office to use campaign funds for child care while the candidate is campaigning on his or her own behalf or attending events directly related to his or her campaign. The use of the funds would be allowed from the date that nomination papers become available through the date of the General Election.
Under current law, candidates are prohibited from using campaign funds for their personal use. The state's Office of Campaign and Finance has classified childcare while performing campaign duties as a personal expense rather than a campaign expense.
* Postpartum depression (PPD) (H 4808) -- The House approved and sent to the Senate a bill requiring that MassHealth provide coverage of screenings by pediatricians for PPD in mothers of newly-born children during any visit to a pediatrician's office for up to one year from the date of the child's birth.
* Homeless obtaining IDs (S 2568) -- Stuck in the House Ways and Means Committee since July 2 is Senate-approved legislation which would eliminate the $25 fee for homeless persons who apply for a Massachusetts identification card. The measure also creates a process to grant IDs to the homeless if they can show alternative proof of Massachusetts residency instead of the current requirement to show a permanent address, which they obviously do not have.